Sunday, July 14, 2013

On the way

(My backpack and daypack hanging out before check-in).

So I'm at JFK hours and hours early before my Aeroflot flight.  I took a car service to the airport and my driver was a Vietnam War Vet!  I thought that was an interesting coincidence.  

When he picked me up, he asked me if u was going anywhere good.  I said "Southeast Asia" and he turned away and sighed.  He then said that he was a marine and was over there for years - and didn't want to go back.  He then told me about his time there - which he did VOLUNTARILY after his best friend was killed there while he was in college. He asked to leave school for four years so he could go and serve.  How amazing is that?  I could never imagine doing that and I told him that really spoke to the kind of man that he is.  He did three tours and was injured three times - once when he was shot in the leg in the jungle and once after being shot down in a helicopter.  He was a teacher and would try to write on the board but wasn't able to hold the chalk.  He went to the doctor, who asked "When did you break your neck?"  He laughed thinking that it was a joke but it turned out the doctor said that his neck was fractured in three places, which led to lasting nerve damage - which explains his inability to hold things now in his right hand.  Unbelievable.  He assumed this must have happened after that helicopter crash in Vietnam.

His story was really amazing and he talked about how it bothers him when people make casual statements like "I can imagine what that was like over there.". He, rightfully, said that no one can ever really imagine what it is like to have groin rot and gangrene and see snakes and death and have jungle rashes and not be able to shower.  It sounded like another thing people "can't imagine" is how to wrap your mind around why the guy next to you gets blown up, yet you are still alive.  He made an analogy, saying that in life everyone gets dealt a hand of cards - some get 52, some people get ten extra and some only get three.  It isn't fair but that's the way life is, and there is no answer for why.  I guess he felt like he got a few extra cards in his deck.

It was really cool talking and when he heard I was nervous about the flight, he really did a good job explaining why I had nothing to be worried about. He said that if anything happened over there, I could call and there would be a marine there to get me, "though there might be some blood and guts.".  I'm assuming they wouldn't be my guts ;). He gave me his email and said that he wanted me to write him when I was over there to let him know that I am ok.  I thought that was awesome and I know that I will definitely write to him.

By the end, I got out of what felt like my family member's car.  I totally forgot I had to pay and he didn't ask me for any money.  Thank goodness I remembered and was able to get it together enough to actually pay him.  He forgot to!  He said it was ok, he know I would pay when I got back if I forgot.  

Anyway, I felt like that was a nice start to the trip.  I'm like so early that I can't even check into my flight yet.  I'm sure there will be more to come on here in my next two days of travel on the way to Luang Prabang. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Staten Island Vietnam War Memorial at the Armory

Today I was lucky enough to take part in a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the erection of this Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Manor Road Armory in West Brighton.  It was so touching to see so many veterans gathered together and to have speeches and songs dedicated to these brave individuals.  Though this ceremony was only several hours, it caused me to remember that these Veterans live with this memory every day of their lives. 

I felt very privileged to witness the pride and honor associated with their service and it caused me to really think about how these veterans Kay see the country of Vietnam, somewhere I will be in only a few short weeks.  I will be in the same city where Mary La Manna, a Lieutenant I met today, served as a nurse in a hospital in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).  I will traverse down a river where John, another veteran I met today served.  Today he detailed to me the "tons and tons" of Agent Orange Americans "dumped" over there.  He seemed sad about this, particularly when he explained to me a little bit of his perspective of how he feels the Vietnamese people have recovered differently from Americans after this war.  He feels the Vietnamese people have been able to move on and leave the war in the past.  He, however, seemed to still feel duped by the American government and still sees a psychiatrist twice a week in order to deal with the anger issues he suffered post-Vietnam.  I was very interested in his story and wonder if the Vietnamese people do feel that they have been able to "move on" and leave the war in the past.  I will be able to observe that first hand when I speak to people there. 

I also spoke to several veterans about returning to the land where they fought this traumatic war.  John said he had thought of going back but hasn't yet.  He said that his friend and fellow veteran goes back frequently. John assumes that he returns in order to "heal."  Other veterans, however, strongly asserted that they would not want to go back and that once was enough.  

In any event, I will now travel looking at Vietnam through the eyes of John and the other veterans today, keeping their legacy in mind as I walk in their footsteps.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Vietnam Trip

I am going to Vietnam this summer to learn about how Vietnamese portray, remember and teach about "The American War" - what we Americans know as "The Vietnam War."  Just this nominal difference, to me, speaks volumes about how the war is viewed so differently from both sides.  I am interested in gathering more evidence through interviews and discussions with Americans, and then comparing my findings with how this Vietnam War is depicted and remembered by the Vietnamese.  I will use this information to construct a cross-curriculuar Literature and US History Unit for NYC 11th graders who will study the Vietnam War and read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien to get a richer perspective on this indelible mark on our countries' and the world's past. I will post my findings and learning here.  Thanks for visiting.

I Am a Fund for Teachers Fellow

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mark Twain in NY: from the Times

This article details a list of NY locations touched by Twain. I'll have to plan some visits and photo record :

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Herman Melville's Home, Victoria Pichardo

"Wow, it's so tall!"
Side view of tall shiny building that now stands at 6 Pearl
View of Battery Park across the street
Though Herman Melville's home looked nothing like this skyscraper, this is what has replaced his birthplace.
Building is behind us.
Herman Melville, one of the most famous American authors, was born here in New York City. His home was located on 6 Pearl Street in Manhattan. As a young man in search of adventures, Melville shipped out on a boat as a cabin boy. When he returned home he wrote about his adventures. Melville loved the sea and it is appropriate that he lived across the street from the East River. Many of his works were about adventures at sea. Melville wrote a novel which was ignored in his time but is now known as a masterpiece. Moby Dick, a novel about whaling adventures became recognized 30 years after his death.
Visiting Herman Meleville's birth place was a great experience for me. Pearl street is one of the most historical places in Manhattan. Many of the buildings and even the stones on the ground, have been there for many years. Not until I visited the literary site did I realize that Pearl street is a historical site in Manhattan. Especially because Melville the author of
Moby Dick lived there. It's interesting and always fun to learn the historical significance of different areas within walking distance of my home. the area and surroundings are beautiful, especially across the street. If you walk by the East river you can see Staten island, New Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty.

- Victoria Pichardo, 16
PACE High School
100 Hester Street
New York, NY 10002

NY Public Library and Exhibits, Spring 2009 -Ashley Cortez